Seventy-five people in Puerto Rico were indicted Wednesday for allegedly running a multimillion-dollar drug trafficking ring that including selling hard drugs in public housing complexes and throwing bodies of victims to caimans.
U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez announced Wednesday the group had been operating since 2006 and sold drugs -- including crack, cocaine, heroin and Xanax -- in the capital of San Juan as well as shipping cocaine to the U.S. mainland.
“Since we began investigating this violent gang, we were struck that they would take their victims and their bodies were thrown to the caimans,” Rodriguez said in a news conference Wednesday morning. “With those acts, we see the violence from this dangerous gang, who is known as Las FARC.”
FARC is translated to be “The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cantera,” which operated out of Barrio Obrero Ward in San Juan with the goal to “maintain control of all the drug trafficking activities with the in Santurce area by the use of force, threats, violence, and intimidation,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Prosecutor Alberto Lopez said the group is linked to more than a dozen killings, although he didn’t say how many people were allegedly fed to caimans -- alligator-like reptiles in the alligatorid family -- citing confidential evidence.
“They had [the caimans] as a domestic animal in their homes,” Rodriguez said, adding that the federal investigation was called “Operation Crocodile."
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the gang’s leaders would routinely authorize sellers to provide free “samples” of narcotics to “customers” in order to promote the sales of a specific brand of drugs. They would also use barriers and barricades of large water tanks, access control barriers and steel gate poles to block off streets and prevent law enforcement or rival gangs from entering the areas where they operated.
The 75 people indicted acted in different roles, including drug point owners, runners, suppliers, enforces, drug processors, sellers and facilitators. Twenty-seven of the defendants were also charged with possession of firearms.
According to El Nuevo Dia, one of the defendants was identified as Edgar Nieves, who was a city employee in the human resources department at city hall. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, ordered Nieves suspended from his position.
“Daily, municipal employees in their respective agencies come to serve the citizens of San Juan. Recognizing that we all have the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise, as in previous occasions, we proceeded to suspend the employee,” Yulin Cruz said in a statement. “We want to clarify that the reason for which he was arrested has nothing to do with his duties in the Municipality of San Juan.”
The government is seeking to seize $76 million in alleged drug profits and four properties.
All defendants face a minimum of 10 years in prison, Rodriguez said.